Should ISPs Be The Decision Makers On Giving Up Your Anonymity?

from the not-their-role dept

We've been staying out of the big Wikipedia debate lately, because it really seems like the same old thing. Some information in Wikipedia is false, even malicious, and it can be changed by anyone. That's not new -- and every time someone discovers it, it doesn't make it new again. However, in this case, the angry individual, John Seigenthaler, is now rumored to be using his case to push for legal changes, whose unintended consequences could be pretty extreme. Seigenthaler's big issue in this story is that he traced the writer of a malicious and false bio of himself to a BellSouth account -- but BellSouth, respecting that user's privacy, won't give out his info. At this point, there are a few different options: (1) forget it and not worry about it (2) change the Wikipedia entry to be a lot more accurate or (3) completely change our legal system to put the burden on ISPs to judge by themselves whether or not someone has done something so egregious that they no longer have a right to privacy. It appears Seigenthaler has chosen option three. As Ross Mayfield points out, this opens up a number of bad doors: it puts the cost on the ISP (something they were promised wouldn't happen when they agreed to the DMCA a decade ago) and, most importantly, "privatizes governance and enforcement." Why is it that a private entity gets to decide whether or not you've done something that reduces your right to privacy? This shifts the burden away from the accuser (where it belongs) to both the accused and the middleman -- which would set a very bad precedent.


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  1.  
    identicon
    zcat, Dec 8th, 2005 @ 8:35pm

    "John Doe" ??

    Isn't the usual procedure to file a lawsuit against the unidentified person and let the courts request their identity from the ISP? It's good enough for the RIAA!

    It's all going to go to hell when people start doing this stuff through free wifi though :-)

     

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  2.  
    identicon
    A super patriot, Dec 8th, 2005 @ 9:22pm

    Re:

    And more power to them if they do so. free wifi will assure that anyone can express thier opinion without fear of retaliation from anyone.

    Look the fact is that words only hurt if you allow them. People need to be educated that everyone is intitled to their opinion even if that opinion refelects badly upon someone else.
    If a lie is distributed, it is easily fixed if it is a lie. The idea that someone could be put in jail or brought into the public eye cause they said something in anger or pain is just pathetic to anyone who values thier freedom of speech.. which people like the guy mentioned in the article above show they most certainly do not.
    I'm sure it hurt him when they person slandered him. However every individual has the responsibility to evaluate what they hear from themselves and to investigate that statement before they take it as truth. If they don't do so, then they bring misery upon themselves.
    We as a country will publish peoples names who have been accused of a crime even though they have not been convicted of this crime. The public will use this information against them. This is just plain silly.
    Facts should guild your actions, not gossip. and that is what this is all about is gossip with nothing to back it up. If people believe gossip they get everything and more of what they deserve.
    At that point our government has to do nothing to deceive them. they do it to theirselves.

     

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  3.  
    icon
    Mike (profile), Dec 8th, 2005 @ 11:11pm

    Re:

    Isn't the usual procedure to file a lawsuit against the unidentified person and let the courts request their identity from the ISP? It's good enough for the RIAA!

    Actually, it's not good enough for the RIAA. They fought that like crazy a few years ago, going toe-to-toe with Verizon over whether or not they had to file John Doe lawsuits, or if Verizon should just hand over names.

    Wasn't that long ago...

    http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20031222/1226248.shtml

     

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  4.  
    identicon
    Peter Saunders, Dec 8th, 2005 @ 11:59pm

    Fixing a lie

    [quote]If a lie is distributed, it is easily fixed if it is a lie. [/quote]
    Lies are not easy to fix, especially if you cannot confront the liar.
    With no comeback it will become a commercial tactic to lie about a competitors product to gain commercial advantage.
    If it goes too far then the ISP's will probably end up being classed as publishers and sued directly.
    Surely along with freedom of speech responsibility for your actions must go hand in hand.

    Peter

     

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  5.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 9th, 2005 @ 6:10am

    No Subject Given

    I think we may be forgetting another important fact, mainly, how did he figure out that the user has a Bellsouth account? I assume that he either (a) muscled Wikipedia or however hosts Wikipedia into giving him that information [without a court order?] or (b) hacked into their database himself and got the information [I highly doubt this, but wouldn't it be illegal?] Either way, why did Wikipedia give up the information? I think part of the blame lays on them. I remember them saying that all of the posts were anonymous. What happened to change this fact?

     

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  6.  
    identicon
    chosel, Dec 9th, 2005 @ 6:52am

    Re: No Subject Given

    Not sure about wikipedia itself, but I run a mediawiki site and the software records and with show the ip address of whoever made a change. I didnt make any change to have it do this, pretty much an out of the box install.

     

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  7.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Hero, Dec 9th, 2005 @ 11:28am

    Re: Re:

    "free wifi will assure that anyone can express thier opinion without fear of retaliation from anyone."
    Which is why free WiFi will probably be outlawed.

     

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  8.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 9th, 2005 @ 11:31am

    Re: Fixing a lie

    "With no comeback it will become a commercial tactic to lie about a competitors product to gain commercial advantage."

    How is that much different from the now common practice of lying about your own product to gain commercial advantage?

     

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  9.  
    identicon
    Bob, Dec 9th, 2005 @ 1:52pm

    Anonymity and Responsibile Behavior

    If the bio was intentionally malicious or false, it is considered defamatory and Mr. Seigenthaler would have every right to file his suit to seek damages. He need not change the law, he just needs to have a judge order Bell South to hand over the information.

    I agree the anonymous user should be punished, if found guilty of defamation.

    Anonymity is a privelege. It is your right to remain private about your affairs, not a right to defame others. Once you cross that line, your anonymity is forfeit.

     

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